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Need to Know: Five players who must step up for the Redskins to beat the Steelers

Need to Know: Five players who must step up for the Redskins to beat the Steelers

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, September 11, one day before the Washington Redskins open their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Walkthrough at Redskins Park, no media availability

—The Redskins last played a game that counted 245 days ago. It will be one day until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Cowboys @ Redskins 7; Browns @ Redskins 21; Redskins @ Ravens 28

Five Redskins who will need to step up to beat the Steelers

QB Kirk Cousins—The quick scouting report on the Steelers is that they have a shaky secondary but a fierce pass rush (third in the NFL in sacks in 2015). Last year Cousins was very good when he was not under pressure but his efficiency dropped when the pass rush started to get to him (35th among 37 QBs with at least 200 pass plays per Football Outsiders). He will need to continue to be efficient when he has time to throw but he inevitably will find himself with defenders in his face from time to time. Cousins will need to step up and make some plays while dealing with the rush.

RB Matt Jones—He has been groomed to be the lead dog at running back all offseason. But his injury opened the door for undrafted rookie Robert Kelley to make a case that he is a viable alternative. If Jones wants to establish himself as starting NFL running back it starts on Monday with him perhaps grinding through some pain to deliver a solid performance.

G Brandon Scherff—If the Redskins are going to run the ball at all—and they likely will have to do it some if they are going to win—they will have to control Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt. He can be a one-man wrecking crew on either outside or inside runs. The favored alignment for him is in a three technique on the left side, which puts him over the outside shoulder of Scherff. The No. 5 pick in last year’s draft will need to take another step towards showing he was worth that selection by keeping Tuitt under control.

CB Bashaud Breeland—Breeland likely will spend some of the night on Antonio Brown as the coaches have said that Josh Norman will not trail the NFL’s best receiver wherever he lines up. But the real pressure on Breeland will come when he is guarding the Steelers’ “other” receiver. With Markus Wheat declared out that will be Sammie Coates with Darrius Heyward-Bey stepping in on occasion. There would be few worse scenarios than the Redskins keeping Brown under control but losing because  Coates has a big day.

S DeAngelo Hall—He played some safety towards the end of last year but the coaches didn’t put too much on him because of his mid-season conversion. At this point safety has been his position all through the offseason program and training camp so he gets the full package. If he is going to prolong his career at safety he needs to get off to a good start tonight. Hall needs to be assignment perfect and serve as a last line of defense to prevent Big Ben from racking up quick scores to Brown, Coates, or the speedy Hayward-Bey.

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2018 NFL Draft order has Redskins pick nearing top ten as losses stockpile

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USA Today Sports Images

2018 NFL Draft order has Redskins pick nearing top ten as losses stockpile

LOS ANGELES — Some years, the December talk is of playoff tiebreakers.

Other years, it’s about draft position.

This is one of those “other” years.

The Redskins’ current skid of four losses in their last five games has knocked them out of playoff contention but into more favorable position in the 2018 NFL Draft, which is scheduled to take place in late April.

The Redskins' record is 5-8 through Week 14,  and if the season ended today, Washington would be picking either 11th or 12th in the first round.

Here’s the big picture: As of today, there are eight teams that have fewer wins than Washington. All of them would be picking ahead of the Redskins. 

The Bengals and Jets also have eight losses so the one and only draft order tiebreaker would be applied.

RELATED: NEW 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 3.0

This does not work out well for the Redskins.

The NFL Draft tiebreaker is strength of schedule with the teams with the weaker schedules getting the better picks. I am sure you have heard about how tough a schedule the Redskins have all year long. It was a point of pride for many fans. But now it comes back to bite them.

The Jets (opponents winning percentage .488) and the Bengals (.444) have faced weaker schedules than the Redskins (.574). That pushes Washington back to 11th.

RELATED: FEW UPS, MANY DOWNS VS. CHARGERS

But there is a Week 14 game pending. The Dolphins, who have seven losses, play the Patriots on Monday Night Football. If they lose and join the eight-loss group, they would jump ahead of the Redskins based on the SOS tiebreaker, pushing Washington back to 12th.

Of course, the season doesn’t end today and a lot can happen.

But if the bottom doesn’t completely fall out it seems likely that they will end up somewhere between 10th and 12th in the first round.

We will be looking at what that might mean for the Redskins in the coming days and weeks as the offseason comes early for the Redskins one more time.

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NFL Playoff Picture: NFC bracket projection starting to come into focus

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USA Today Sports

NFL Playoff Picture: NFC bracket projection starting to come into focus

The NFC Playoff picture is no clearer in Week 14 than it was in Week 8.

Throughout the 2017-18 NFL season, the NFC in particular has been a gauntlet. So much of a gauntlet that one of the league’s best in the past five years, the Seattle Seahawks, sit outside of the postseason with an 8-5 record.

As of the conclusion of Week 14’s action, only the Philadelphia Eagles (11-2) have locked up a postseason spot.

The Eagles claimed the NFC East for the first time since 2013 with a win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. The will clinch a first round bye with a win and losses by the Saints and the Panthers this weekend.

The Minnesota Vikings (10-3) with their loss remains second in the conference, still within striking range over the overall No. 1 seed.

With losses to the two teams ahead of them, the Rams (9-4) have a tough hill to climb to claim a first-round bye, but first they need to get back in the win column.

For the WildCard berths there was a wrench thrown into many teams plans with the Atlanta Falcons (8-5) defeating the New Orleans Saints (9-4) on Thursday night. Atlanta owns a tiebreaker over pretty much every team chasing them for the final playoff spot.

For the five remaining unclaimed spots in the postseason, 10 teams are still alive.

After Week 15 though, that number could dwindle down significantly.

RELATED: NEW 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 3.0

NFC Playoff Picture Week 15

NFC PLAYOFF BRACKET PROJECTION:
— #1 Philadelphia Eagles* (11-2) vs. BYE
— #2 Minnesota Vikings (10-3) vs. BYE
— #3 Los Angeles Rams (9-4) vs. #6 Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
— #4 New Orleans Saints (9-4) vs. #5 Carolina Panthers (9-4)

NFC TEAMS IN THE PLAYOFF HUNT:
— Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
— Detroit Lions (7-6)
— Green Bay Packers (7-6)
— Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
— Arizona Cardinals (6-7)

NFC TEAMS ELIMINATED PLAYOFF PICTURE:
— Washington Redskins (5-8)
— Tampa Bay Buccaneerrs (4-9)
— Chicago Bears (4-9)
— San Francisco 49ers (3-10)
— New York Giants (2-11)

SEEDING NOTES:
— Eagles own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rams, Panthers.
— Vikings own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rams, Saints, and Falcons.
— Saints own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Panthers.
— Rams own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Saints.
— Panthers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings.

WILD CARD NOTES:
— Panthers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions.
— Falcons own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions, Packers, Cowboys, and Seahawks.
— Lions own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cardinals.
— Packers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seahawks, Cowboys.
— Cowboys own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cardinals.

Week 15 NFC Games With Playoff Implications:

Sat., Dec 16: Bears at Lions (4:30 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Bengals at Vikings (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Jets at Saints (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Eagles at Giants (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Cardinals at Redskins (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Panthers at Packers (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Rams at Seahawks (4:05 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Cowboys at Raiders (8:30 p.m.)
Mon., Dec 18: Falcons at Buccaneers (8:30 p.m.)